World’s top platinum miner suspends SA work amid unrest

September 12, 2012 3:51 pm
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Police stand guard as strikers urge their colleagues at the Amplats mine to stop join the protest/AFP
RUSTENBURG, Sep 12 – The world’s top platinum producer Anglo American suspended its main South African operations Wednesday as fears rose that widening strikes are spiralling into an industry revolt.

The latest unrest broke out on roads leading to Anglo American which halted work at its Rustenburg mines in the same region as the London-listed Lonmin plant where 45 people have died in a wildcat strike that started last month.

“We have taken this decision to suspend our operations in order to help ensure the safety of our employees – our absolute priority,” said Cynthia Carroll, chairperson of Anglo American Platinum (Amplats).

“Our people want to work and it is unacceptable that they are not able to go to work safely and instead are facing considerable intimidation.”

South Africa’s key mining sector, which contributes around a fifth of the country’s GDP, has been hit by a wave of increasingly militant strikes that have spilled from the world’s richest platinum mines into the gold sector.

Security guards on Wednesday fired teargas to disperse hundreds of striking Gold Fields miners who tried to block a goods train with cement blocks and iron bars at a shaft near Johannesburg where 15,000 have downed tools since Sunday.

Anglo American denied its workers were on strike, saying staff were unable to report for duty and were being intimidated with the threat of violence.

“Our people want to work and it is unacceptable that they are not able to go to work safely and instead are facing considerable intimidation.”

Police said workers had converged along roads to mine shafts, barricading them with rocks and tree trunks to prevent anyone from reporting for duty.

An AFP reporter said there were no barriers by noon (1000 GMT) but around 1,500 striking workers, waving sticks and machetes, were moving from shaft to shaft trying to stop those on the job.

Tensions have been inflamed by maverick former youth leader Julius Malema who has been visiting strife-hit mines and calling for operations to be made ungovernable and for widespread strike action.

“We are calling for mining change in South Africa. We want the mines nationalised,” he told Radio Talk Radio 702.

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